Lack of sleep is a public health problem, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say.
Almost one-quarter of adults participating in a CDC survey confessed that sleepiness keeps them from concentrating. What’s worse, nearly 5 percent of them said they had nodded off or fallen asleep while driving at least once in the previous month.
Many of us just aren’t getting enough rest. Here are the National Institutes of Health’s recommendations:
- School-age children and teens — About 9.5 hours per night
- Most adults — Seven to nine hours
Fortunately, there are ways to improve your sleep. Many require little or no money.
1. Create the right atmosphere
Make your bedroom a comfortable, inviting place. Pay attention to the temperature, the aesthetics and the comfort of your bed. Set the temperature between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and make sure the air circulation is good.
Wear nightclothes that are loose and comfortable. Change your bedding at least weekly.
2. Invest in a good mattress
Consumer Reports’ Mattress Buying Guide offers more than a dozen tips for buying the right mattress. According to the guide:
“If you dread a trip to Sears or Sleepy’s, realize that you’ve got more options than ever before — department and specialty stores are no longer the default destination. Now great mattresses at fair prices can be found at Costco and online retailers.”
3. Train your brain
Bad habits contribute to many sleep problems.
It’s hard to break old habits, and to make new ones. But once a new habit is established, it generally runs effortlessly in the background of our life.
Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTI) is one way of reshaping your sleep habits. The National Sleep Foundation explains how it works. CBTI may take weeks of work and require professional help, but it likely is worth the effort.
Mindfulness meditation is another way to train your brain in your battle against insomnia. To learn more about it, check out “A Free 2-Step Solution for More Sleep.”
4. Keep the bedroom a sanctuary
Reserve your bedroom for sleep, dressing and sex. Nothing else.
The underlying idea is to associate your bedroom with restfulness and sleep, eliminating activities connected with wakefulness or stress.
5. Get up if you can’t sleep
Insomniacs shouldn’t stay in bed when they’re not sleeping. By getting out of bed, you avoid making a connection in the mind between the bed and sleeplessness.
“If you are not asleep after 20 minutes, then get out of the bed,” says the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
6. Try a sleep app
Healthline reviewed sleep apps for Apple and Android devices recently.
Many of these apps feature sounds like peaceful music, white noise or nature sounds. Others involve elements of hypnosis or meditation.
7. Manage caffeine and tobacco
Coffee does a good job of keeping you awake. That’s why we love it. But it stays in your system for hours, as Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine notes:
“So avoid caffeine (found in coffee, tea, chocolate, cola and some pain relievers) for four to six hours before bedtime. Similarly, smokers should refrain from using tobacco products too close to bedtime.”
8. Watch the alcohol
A couple of drinks in the evening can help you fall asleep. But, a few hours later, the alcohol acts as a stimulant, causing you to lie awake or to wake repeatedly, diminishing your quality of sleep.
Harvard Medical School recommends you “limit alcohol consumption to one to two drinks per day, or less, and to avoid drinking within three hours of bedtime.”
9. Go dark
In darkness, the brain’s pineal gland releases melatonin, a hormone that makes us sleepy and helps regulate our body’s circadian rhythm, says the National Sleep Foundation.
Exposure to light, including artificial indoor light, at night interferes with that process.
10. Stick to a schedule
Train your brain to expect sleep by making a schedule and sticking to it. Decide what time you want to be asleep and when you want to wake up. Follow that schedule, a little rigidly at first, to reinforce it.
Keep the schedule up on weekends and holidays so disruptions don’t throw you back into a pattern of sleeplessness.
11. Establish a ritual
Plug a ritual into your bedtime schedule. For example, brush your teeth, lay out the next day’s clothes, make lunch for the next day, climb into your pajamas and set an alarm.
Do these same tasks and preparations every night and in the same order to establish a soothing habit that tells your brain it’s time for sleep.
12. Remove allergens
Keep your bedroom clean. If you are allergic to mold, pollen or pet dander, remove wall-to-wall carpeting and use washable area rugs instead, if possible. Wash rugs and bedding in hot water.
Some people like to use an air filter while they’re sleeping. For more tips, check out “15 Ways to Wage War at Home Against Pollen and Allergens.”
13. Pull the plug
TVs and computers are stimulating, and at night they are a source of light when you need darkness. So shut them off, or keep them out of the bedroom.
A bonus: Your love life just might improve.
14. Break a sweat
Having a regular exercise routine improves your health and helps you fall asleep more quickly and get a good night’s rest.
But timing is everything: In the short-term, exercise stimulates the release of cortisol, a stress hormone that keeps us alert.
So work out in the morning to avoid being revved up at night, says Harvard Medical School.
15. Bore yourself to sleep
Read something so dull it puts you to sleep. “Now is finally the time to learn about the intricacies of legislative process or attempt James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses,'” says the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
Stay away from thrillers, horror stories and other reading choices that stir up your emotions.
16. Listen to audiobooks
Some people find listening to downloaded audio programs or books sleep-inducing. For no-cost options, check out “5 Sources of Free Audiobooks.”
What are the habits, tips or tricks you use to get a good night’s sleep? Share your thoughts by commenting below or on our Facebook page